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"Bruise trousers" are designed to let disabled athletes know when they're hurt


June 19, 2014

The bruise trousers release magenta dye when subjected to impact (Photo: Lucy Jung, Ming Kong, Elena Dieckmann and Dan Garrett/Imperial College London)

The bruise trousers release magenta dye when subjected to impact (Photo: Lucy Jung, Ming Kong, Elena Dieckmann and Dan Garrett/Imperial College London)

Along with the obvious mobility issues faced by athletes who are unable to walk, they also face another challenge – if they're unable to feel their legs, that means they can't always tell when they've been hurt. Severe bruises or broken bones can simply go unnoticed, until they develop into even more of a problem. That's why a group of students at Imperial College London have invented a set of "bruise trousers" that show such athletes when and where they've received a serious impact below the waist.

The trousers were created by engineering students Lucy Jung, Elena Dieckmann, Dan Garrett and Ming Kong as part of the Rio Tinto Sports Innovation project, which is aimed at fostering the development of Paralympic sporting equipment.

They're made of breathable white Lycra, that's lined with pockets containing strips of a pressure-reactive film – the pockets are strategically located over the thorax, pelvis and leg bones. Commonly used to measure pressure distribution in industrial applications such as newspaper printing presses, that film releases a magenta dye from embedded microcapsules when it receives a hard impact – the stronger the impact, the more intense the color of the resulting stain in the film, which can be seen through the Lyrca.

The students wrapped animal bones in the trouser material, then subjected those bones to impacts of varying levels using a droptower. By observing how the shape and intensity of the stains varied with different impact loads, they were able to produce a chart that could be used by coaches or other people, to determine the severity of an athlete's injuries based on the stains on their bruise trousers.

They now hope to develop an entire bruise suit, and to commercialize the technology into a line of sports apparel.

Source: Imperial College London via Wired

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

I hope they do make a full-body suit - Imagine the 'bragging rights' that could ensue between skateboarders, trailbikers etc. "Look, my crash was much worse than yours ... see the bloodies" (just coined that word - no copyright). As a serious aside, I wonder how it would fare as half or full outerwear at the Winter Olympics or other competition for instance? Did the athlete [skier/skater/snowboarder] touch or not touchdown on that landing? Visual inspection would save a lot of TV relays. Sometimes a great 'save' can still look like a points deduction to the judges.

The Skud

A colleague's 5-year-old son once assured his 3-year brother, "Scott, I'll let you know if you get stung by a bee."

Paul Stregevsky
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